“Pariyestan: Tails of Sisters, 青蛇+白蛇: 緣起”, Parisa Madani ©Parisa Madani

The Landscape of Dreams

TANZTAGE BERLIN 2023 >>> “Pariyestan: Tails of Sisters, 青蛇+白蛇: 緣起” by Parisa Madani invites the viewers into the world of dreams and fantasies. This “durational collective dream meditation” took place at Sophiensæle from 10 p.m. on 7 January to around 5 a.m. on 8 January 2023 in the frame of Tanztage Berlin.

On this full moon night, the audience members enter the Pariyestan. The space is dimly lit in shades of blue. Soft geometric shapes are projected on two sides of the wall and it looks as if they are floating underwater. Cushions and blankets are laid out on the floor. I hear the sound of drones and birds. The atmosphere reminds me of being in a park in summer time – Many people sitting or lying alone, in pairs, or in bigger groups, socialising with beverages and snacks. I lay out my yoga mat, put my pillow in a pillow case, spread my blanket, and sit with a purple crystal in my hand. 

When we all have settled in our spots, Parisa Madani enters as she makes a bird-like sound and taps her long nails. She arrives at the centre area reserved for the performers and greets us. She reminds us “the most important information” in the program note, which is “reproductions of hegemonic powers and white-supremacy inside of pariyestan will be punished by fire.” She points to several candles in the space and says, “We already have fire and we have a fireman!” At the back, a fireman walks around, checking the candles. I find his presence in this context refreshing, because as an immigrant in Germany, I am so often told to “follow the rules and obey the authorities.” I am delighted to see someone who is usually “an authority figure” coming to us to support and safeguard our desires. 

After introducing the performance team, Madani, a German-Iranian artist, breaks into tears as she talks about the revolution in Iran. “The room will explode if we say the names of all the lives we have lost in the revolution,” she says. She dedicates the performance to “the ones who died in the revolution”. A big piece of black fabric hangs from the ceiling down to the floor in one corner of the room. In white paint, the slogan, “Jin, Jîyan, Azadî” (“Woman, Life, Freedom”) is written on it. “Sometimes, the best way to resist the machine is to lie down and cry. If you need to cry tonight, let it out.” With this invitation for us to relax not only our physical bodies, but also our emotional ones, the performance begins. Tea is served and the excitement in the air gradually calms down. A collective space of rest opens. 

Madani, Chen Mingjou, and Liu Yujing carry out a slow and repetitive movement phrase in the centre area. The projection changes into white circles softly moving against a black background. It reminds me of planets floating through space and soothes me. The three performers exit.

Madani enters alone in a changed costume. She is wearing a flowy dress and a big black hat that covers most of her face. She recites a poem in English, and at one point, she sobs. At this moment, I look around the quiet room and sense our individual and collective sorrow. I feel the permission to rest my feelings, to put my heart – sorrows, anger, worries – down. I let myself relax to the closeness of the bodies of strangers around me. Madani exits.

After a short moment of quiet, Chen and Liu, who are noted as “snakes” in the program note, begin a conversation in Mandarin. They are wearing long robes that resemble snakes. They move through the people as they speak. A projection depicts a green and a white line moving with one another. Some people blow bubbles, some do nail polish for each other, some draw, some rest, and some sleep. I look around and realise how intimate it is to witness others sleep. I let myself be vulnerable by lying down and closing my eyes. 

With my eyes closed, I think back to an earlier moment when Madani says, “Maybe tonight, you will find love in the most unexpected way.” She continues, “The sign of the revolution will hide you from the others’ gaze,” as she points to the nook behind the black fabric, hinting that people are welcome to have a private moment in that space. I contemplate the poetry in Madani relating the sign of the revolution to a place for love. The revolution has been demonstrating the force of love. Love for justice and freedom. Love for a community, a person, and oneself. “You deserve rest,” reads the program note. I realise that this radical form of rest is necessary to gain courage and strength to fully love and to express that love.

The lights get darker. We see Madani sleeping in the centre area. Beside her, Azin Zahedi plays the Santur. The sound of the ringing strings are melancholic and peaceful. At some point, Zahedi hums, luring the room to sleep. Then, a voice speaks quietly in Farsi. The sounds slowly fade. In quiet, three projections appear on the walls. They show changing colours and shapes of snakes and text in Portuguese. 

After snack time, when yellow rice is served, Chen and Liu speak affectionately to one another, addressing each other as sisters. They move around the room and the lights brighten in colours of red, pink, and purple. A machine emits smoke into the room. It feels as if I am entering a dream. Following this scene, the lights go out and I sleep. 

I am woken up by the sounds of birds. I open my eyes and see the lights glimmering in orange, and Madani, Chen, and Liu playing with one another with pillows. Music starts quietly, then gradually gets louder. As the room wakes up, the three performers put out big papers, colourful markers, and water-colours on the floor. Black tea and plates of sliced cucumber and apples are passed around. We share our dreams in drawings and words. This space of care where we can express our dreams in diverse languages and non-languages is perhaps our collective dream. 

“Soft exit” begins, where people can leave the space on their own time. 

I go out to the dark empty streets and walk slowly in my dream. 

“Pariyestan: Tails of Sisters, 青蛇+白蛇: 緣起” by Parisa Madani (With Parisa Madani, Antonella Fittipaldi, Liu Yujing, Chen Mingjou, Gadutra, Saman Mahdavi, Hadi Bastani, Raouf Alaia, Nir, Christa Ringhandt and others – Music: Azin Zahedi – Sound, Visuals: Amin Banitaba – Dramaturgical support: Dandan Liu) took place from 7 January 10 p.m. to around 5 a.m. on 8 January 2023 as part of Tanztage Berlin at Sophiensaele. Tanztage Berlin 2023 is running until 21 January, you find the festival program and ticket info at tanztage-berlin.sophiensaele.com.